As a human who has most of her money sitch together, here’s the thing I get asked the most: How do I create a budget?
Budgets, surprisingly, can be as different from person to person as underwear preference. Some people love a good thong; I find it to be an oppressive buttfloss. To each their own.
Likewise, not everyone will get down with budgeting via complicated excel sheets or slick iPhone apps. You have to find your thang or else budgeting will never stick.
But, great news: Are you not a numbers person? Do you get little-to-no-joy from math? Do you prefer words, and maybe talking to yourself out loud an unreasonable amount? Then you’re my person. Welcome.
There’s a seat for you next to me at the money table, baby.
Getchur butt on this dented hood of financial freedom, friend!
I have my own alternative method to budgeting, and I’ve got a few easy steps to get you started.
By the end of these, you won’t just have a budget – you’ll have a recurring budget-lovin’ date with yourself, complete with full instructions to follow, so you’ll only ever have to think hard about your money for one hour every two weeks. That’s that sh*t I do like.
Now, allow me to quote the forever-ballin’ Parks & Rec character Tom Haverford here: “Sometimes, you have to work a little to ball a lot.” These steps might seem a little intense, but if you do these once, it’s much easier sailing from here on out.
Agreed? Let’s do this. We’ll walk through these first few steps, and I’ll hit you with a part 2 once we have these down.
One more thing: I made an easy to follow Google Doc template that’ll help you walk through all of this – but no pressure to use it. Your local pen and paper are gravy, too.
Without further ado, here are the first 3 steps to a pain-free budget (that you can actually stick to). Enjoy!
Sh*t’s about to get seeeerious. (Christchurch, NZ)
1. WHEN’S YOUR BAE DAY?
Nope, not a typo – I’m not talking about Pay Day, necessarily. We’re remixing it to Bae Day, which is now the one day every two weeks when you get your budget on. I call it BAE Day because you’re going to learn to take care of your budget Before Anything Else. (Ya like that?)
Do you already have a job that pays you every two weeks? Sweet – your Pay Day is your Bae Day. If your job pays you regularly on the 12th and the 25th, welcome to your Bae Days. What if you get paid once a month, or are a freelancer and get paid totally abnormally, like me? I pick an every-other weekday for myself, like every other Friday. Whatever your Bae Day is, get it in on your calendar of choice. Look at it lovingly.
If you can, write down the exact number, or a modest estimate, of what you get paid on your Bae Days. Keep this number in your brain.
Are you there, budget gods? It’s me, Brokeness (Christchurch, NZ)
2. LIST YO BAE BILLS
Here’s where we get a lil’ bit listy (that Google Doc will look real nice right now!). In one column, write out every repeating thing that you pay each month. This could be:
- Minimum student loan payments
- Minimum credit card payments
- Don’t skip the little things, like the Netflix, the Spotify, the monthly manicure, the monthly cheese delivery app; if you pay it every month, it goes on this list!
Got that? Dope. Now remember, you’re walking with me in my made-up world where everything happens not monthly, but in two-week increments. What would it be like if you split everything, like your $1400 rent, in half? That’s $700 every two weeks. If you sliced your $80 monthly gym punishment, that’s $40 every two weeks. Write all of those halfsies down in a second column.
Oh, savings – didn’t I tell you? I’m issuing a new mandate about savings in your life.
Your savings is now a recurring bill, too; a bill you pay to your damn self. How many actual dollars you save doesn’t matter right now – you just need to change your mentality about saving, and flex it regularly like a muscle until saving becomes a habit. Let me hand this new habit to you in the form of cute new bill. You’re welcome!
If you’re like me and appreciate direction, we can start simple and say to save 10% of what you make every two weeks. So, if you make $1000 every two weeks, 10% of 1000 is $100. Your savings bill is $100. Change it if it doesn’t work for you. Put that number in your halfsies column as a savings bill. Done.
I’m thinking about my monthly burrito fund. (Singapore)
3. LOOK AT BAE. OBEY BAE.
You just did a lot, so step 3 is just admiring your work. See all those numbers in the “We sliced everything in two-week increments for seemingly no reason” column? Those are your Bae Bills. Here’s the kicker: You’re not paying your bills in once-a-month chunks anymore – you’re paying those halved amounts every two weeks. Whoa.
I hear you, it sounds weird, but this system is about getting a new mindset about money.
You’d be surprised at how many financial institutions – banks, loan providers, etc. – don’t give a shit that you’re only paying them half at a time, as long as you pay the full monthly amount before your due date. My own personal bank was like, you can pay forty times a month for all we care, as long as those forty times add up to what (and when) it’s due.
And this doesn’t mean you have to make complicated arrangements for your landlord to take half of your rent. It just means that you take the time to transfer that half of your rent cash to, say, a checking account you don’t touch, so you’re not accidentally spending your rent money at the club (guilty).
Goodbye to that monthly black-hole feeling when hand over your whole rent check – with this system, you put half away in a safe place, every time.
How I chill knowing that I won’t spend my student loan money on burritos (Titirangi, NZ)
I call these bills your Bae Bills, because you organize and pay them every Bae Day, Before Anything Else.
The key is to do this immediately upon getting paid. I’m talkin’ the second that direct deposit hits, you transfer that half of your rent into a totally different checking account; you put away $5 for when Netflix is due; you make your little halfsie online payment to your Chase Credit Card.
When my paycheck hit every other Friday – my Bae Day – I blocked out one hour in the morning and didn’t do a damn thing until I took care of my Bae Bills. That means no emptying out your Sephora cart, no heading out for yay-weekend happy hour, no nada until Bae gets Paed.
That way, no matter what happens in the next two weeks after that, I know I have my monthly bills at least halfway covered.
*budgets for ten minutes* (Mt. Batur, Bali)
Whew. Let’s all yoga breathe. I know – budgeting is a LOT.
Now, it isn’t supposed to be easy – building a whole new mindset and system about something as complicated and personal as money is a tall order. Even just laying out your numbers the way you have is a gigantic step from where you used to be.
But budgeting is a lot like building a house; you do it right once, and you’ll only have to make improvements on it forevermore. You do the hardcore construction now so that you can reap the benefits – aka, walk around in your underwear and rub your bare butt on everything you built – for a long, long time after.
All my overachievers – catch a quick breakdown of all my steps in the video, below!
How do you manage your budgets? Have any tips to share? Spill!